7 Tips for Remote Collaboration

Feeling disorientated away from your usual work routines? Working remotely (from home or otherwise) can either be a dream-come-true, not-so-ideal, or your standard work mode. Whatever bucket our global SketchUp community falls into, we’ve got a few collaboration tricks up our software sleeves that will help you make the most of remote working.

Trimble Connect is a powerful tool within the SketchUp ecosystem that allows you to store all of your project files and information.

How to access Trimble Connect from SketchUp? If you have an active SketchUp subscription, Trimble Connect is already available to you. Simply launch SketchUp Pro, and click on File > Trimble Connect to launch the cloud toolbox. 

As the world navigates the global pandemic, our team has made the product available to anyone who wants to try it.

Now let’s dive into 7 tips that will help you stay productive and connected to your team while you #OrbitFromHome!

1. Take advantage of unlimited cloud storage 

Yes, you read that right. That’s unlimited cloud storage for any number of files, of any size. With Trimble Connect you can securely store models, image libraries, project references, and work files in the cloud. All of this is immediately accessible to you and any collaborator you chose to share it with. Set up hourly, daily, or weekly syncs to ensure you always have the latest file versions.
Simply access Trimble Connect via SketchUp and sync your data straight to the cloud.

2. Keep track of model versioning

So you’ve downloaded a work-in-progress model from the cloud and are exploring multiple options. You need to keep track of a gazillion iterations — some are saved on your external hard drive, others on your personal computer and one with review notes that your colleague emailed over. 
The good news? Instead of juggling files in all those different locations, you can publish your models straight from SketchUp into Trimble Connect. By creating a single ‘point of truth’, you can easily keep track of file versions, share models with your team, and avoid working on outdated files. (Win!)

3. Model collaboratively

Working remotely shouldn’t lead to collaboration hiccups — you can stay anchored whilst working with other specialists, consultants or colleagues. By importing a reference model from SketchUp to Trimble Connect, you create a fixed spine around which each collaborator contributes.

4. Centralize your library of SketchUp assets

Bring home the files that make your workflow quick and seamless. Architectural entourage, scale figures, groups, and components can be managed and shared as a central library of assets, all within Trimble Connect.

Instead of linking your SketchUp components folder to a central server location that might be inaccessible when working remotely, sync it straight to a folder in Trimble Connect. Access and update it from anywhere.

5. Maintain effective project communication

Team discussions don’t have to be sacrificed just because you’re not collaborating in-person.

Annotate shared models, review and respond to comments, and keep track of project progress. Use Views (think of these like Scenes in SketchUp) to share a specific aspect of your project with stakeholders to visually communicate a detail, change, or to-do. 

Unlock new levels of coordination by managing file permissions, giving access to the right collaborators, and even creating groups for particular tasks with specific edit-rights. 

6. Access on all devices

We’re all for a healthy work-life balance. If however you’re hit by a stroke of genius during your downtime, you can continue to make progress on whatever device is within reaching distance from your desk, sofa or garden table. Pull models down from the cloud to your desktop or laptop for edits, or make annotations and review comments on an iPad.

7. Get set up without any IT hassle

Orbit From Home: 10 at-home learning resources from SketchUp

To our SketchUp community: our hearts go out to everyone affected by COVID-19. We’ve all had to make adjustments to keep our communities safe, and we are here for you while you’re at home and adapting. We’ve rounded up our top 10 learning resources that you can take advantage of while you #OrbitFromHome. 


Check out our ten ways to take advantage of the time spent social distancing:

  1. Learn the SketchUp fundamentals from this self-guided course. Reminder: it’s free and subtitled in more than 100 languages!
  2. More experienced at SketchUp? Dive into our Skill Builder video playlists and polish up your skills.
  3. Discover our Podcast, SketchUp Talk! A great companion to listen to while you’re orbiting away on the axis.
  4. Still tight on time while working from home? In under 60 seconds, our Quick Wins are packed with powerful skills. 💪
  5. Curious about how other professionals are using SketchUp? Learn from the best and brightest in our customer case studies.
  6. See it all live! Tune in to our live model challenges – every Friday at 12 pm MT. Don’t have time to catch it live? Watch the recordings
  7. Try out some of the other products you have access to as a SketchUp Pro Subscriber! Spend some time learning LayOut, share projects with Trimble Connect, model online with SketchUp for Web, or check out SketchUp Viewer for your mobile device!
  8. Looking for new ways to customize your workflow? Explore our Extension Inspections to find the perfect plugin for you.
  9. Tired of dressing up with nowhere to go? Recover your sense of style by learning how to make (and personalize) your very own 2D Component! 
  10. *BONUS!* Share how you’re staying inspired over the next few weeks by tagging your designs with #OrbitFromHome for a chance to be featured on our social channels! 

Whether you’re using your free time to become more proficient & efficient at SketchUp, getting workflow tips from other SketchUp users, or leaning on your love of design during these times, we hope you’re staying healthy and taking care of yourself & your loved ones.

Members of the Bulgarian National High School of Arts Successfully Completed our SketchUp Essential Class

One of the best things a professionalist can do is to never settle and constantly upgrade his knowledge. That is why we are so proud of our latest attendees – the teachers from the National High School of Arts in Sofia. 

Especially for their needs our SketchUp trainer Teodor Rachev created a beginner class that covers key topics and features of the software.

We received great feedback from the teachers in our group and here are some of the insights to share with you:

Thanks to Teodor Rachev for the well done SketchUp course”

– Galya Gelova, Teacher

I would strengthen and improve my SketchUp skills. The program clearly offers ample opportunities that the duration of the course could not fully cover. SketchUp is intriguing software and I would definitely upgrade my skills to master my job at a more professional level. Thanks to the teacher for his erudition and patience. I would love the opportunity to continue the course!

– Desislava Vrabcharska, Spatial Design Teacher

Such courses are a great way to expand and improve the skills of the teachers.

– Irma Vodeva, teacher of toys and drawing

Thank you again, dear students! You were just great. And welcome again. 

Do you want to organize an internal educational program for your team too?

Drop us a line! 

About National High School of Arts:

The St. Luca National High School of Arts – Sofia was established as a Crafts School in 1953. After that, it was transformed into a School of Arts. In 1975 it became Secondary Specialized School of Applied Arts, and in 2009 – St. Luca National High School of Applied Arts – Sofia. The school trains students in eight majors: Art Fabric, Advertising Graphic, Spatial Design, Silicate Design, Toys, Art Carving, Metal Metal Art and Fashion Design. Here pupils study drawing, painting, sculpture, art history, computer graphics. More https://ngpisvetiluka.com

About our Training Center:

Creative Industries Academy is the official training and certification center of Chaos Group for V-Ray in Bulgaria. We have prepared a great variety of classes that can fit every professional level. Our trainers are experienced architecture professionals that can easily mentor your work during each course. We share knowledge and expertise proven in real practice. Access the best teaching practices. See the yearly training schedule here https://creativeindustries.academy

Interested in SketchUp 2020 or a specific archviz topic? We can make a FREE demo for you.

Get in touch NOW.

How to Win Interior Design Projects with SketchUp

Pitching for a new project is one of the most exciting parts of the design process. Creativity needs to flow but deadlines are around the corner. You want to get ideas out of your head quickly and turn them into winning results that will wow your client, boss or team. 

Leverage the full power of a SketchUp Pro subscription at every stage of your creative process to deliver impactful concepts, quickly. Watch us do it live by signing up for our upcoming webinar (and keep reading for a sneak peak!) 

In Part 1 of this series, we’ll teach you how to start from scratch and create design options with ease. In Part 2, you’ll learn how to showcase those designs in their best light, leaving your audience mesmerized. The examples used are interior design focused but don’t worry, these concepts can be applied to almost any industry!


Get started with a 2D sketch, floorplan or photo in SketchUp Pro

There are a few different ways to bring your project into SketchUp right from the start. Don’t be afraid to use what you have depending on the project, whether a sketch, photograph (check out how to use Match Photo) or a 2D plan:

  1. Working from a hand-drawn sketch? Import the hand drawing as an image and start tracing with the Line tool to create a floorplan. This is an easy (and thus popular) way to bring a floorplan into SketchUp.
  2. Have a set of plans? Import a floor plan in CAD, image or PDF. Draw the outline of your project by scaling and drawing from the plan as a reference.


Bring the outline into 3D 

Once you have an outline, you’re ready to draw exterior walls. This workflow highlights how to use imported CAD geometry as your starting point


Create multiple design options using 3D Warehouse

It’s time to bring your space to life. Apply colors and textures with materials to add detail and realism to your models. Visualize your design ideas fast by importing real products from 3D Warehouse

SketchUp lets you quickly work through configurations and build upon the ones you like. Show off options for furnishings or add in various types of greenery to brighten the space and give your design some personality.

The key to showcasing and organising design options for your projects in SketchUp is use of Layers and Scenes. Layers help you organise your model, and Scenes help you present designs easily by adjusting layers, objects, styles and more! 


Save your project to Trimble Connect 

Now that you have your design options in hand, it’s time to save your project to the cloud. Trimble Connect offers you unlimited cloud storage with full version control. The best part? It’s included in a SketchUp Pro subscription

Part of a design team? 

Working together just got a little easier with Trimble Connect. Let’s say you’re working on the interior design at the same time another team member is working on the MEP design. 

You can import a reference model into SketchUp from Trimble Connect. You won’t be able to modify the model, but you can use it as context to more easily coordinate the project. This is useful when you have a team of designers working on different areas. 

Invite other people to your project, create groups with different permissions to control which files members can access. You can also utilize version control to track project history and progress.

Flying solo? 

Each time you upload a copy of your design file, Trimble Connect will keep track of the versions. Use version control to manage different iterations of your model and share those as design options with your client. Assign to-dos and quickly work through client feedback, all within Trimble Connect.


Sign up to watch a step-by-step demo of this workflow in our upcoming webinar on December 11th, 4pm UTC.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article to learn best practices for showcasing your design. 

Designing Innovative Workplace Interiors with 3DEA Bulgaria

Ivan Borov got the 3D bug at fourteen when he collaborated with a friend on a project using SketchUp and Google Earth. He was fascinated by SketchUp’s accessibility and technology as a whole. Whilst studying interior design in Milan, a short film submission that combined his love for graphic design, video, and photo editing won him a scholarship.

During an internship at a large showroom in Milan, he realized colleagues were still drawing only in 2D. Keen to help transform the way they worked and improve efficiency, Borov introduced the team to the world of spatial 3D design in SketchUp.

He returned to Bulgaria in 2012 and worked at a furniture firm for four years before establishing 3DEA, a dynamic commercial interior design firm that delivers branding, and turnkey workplace interiors.

Tell us a little bit about 3DEA and the work you do.

I started 3DEA after several years of post-study work experience in Milan and Bulgaria. I had built up a network of professional contacts whilst working at a furniture company so I had a smooth transition into serving them as an interior designer. We typically work on large and small scale companies, helping to express their ethos, brand and visual identity within their interiors. We also create expo and stand design and signage. SketchUp is our Swiss Army knife that equips us to do all these tasks at different scales consistently well.

SketchUp is our Swiss Army knife that equips us to do all these tasks at different scales consistently well.

A key theme that runs through our projects is the combination of good design and buildability.

We run a lean team, collaborating closely with other design professionals, particularly architectural studios, as required per project. We find that this multidisciplinary team offers greater expertise and gravitas for securing larger bids.

3DEA was a team of five for a long time until I became a father early this year. This major life event forced me to review my approach to work and to find a better balance. This meant switching from 12 – 15hr days at the office to being more selective about the projects we take on, and working healthier hours in a more flexible way. I believe that you produce better work when you have a balanced approach to life, work, and design.

SketchUp rendering of a workplace interior designed by 3DEA

What sets 3DEA apart from the competition?

Our key differentiator is that we try new things. We’re comfortable learning through trial and error because it means that we might forge new paths. Making mistakes beats repeating known solutions simply because ‘that’s the way it’s been done’ over many years. This was an issue at the showroom I worked at in Milan, some of the veteran architects were still using the same workflow they’d used since they left university. It can, of course, be hard to try something new and fail, but it’s worth it in the end because that’s how innovation is born and good work is done.

SketchUp renderings of a workplace interior designed by 3DEA

Where did you train?

I studied Interior Design at the Instituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Milan. The first year focused on laying a foundation in traditional drafting, in-person surveys of existing spaces, and hand drawing. The curriculum then progressed from 2D to 3D where we were taught a range of 3D programs. I found that SketchUp combines all the key functionality of the separate programs which helped me to save a lot of time and struggle. To be honest, I found it hard to learn some of the more complex software and was more keen to design and deliver than be hindered by technology. I could very simply model my design in SketchUp and then using LayOut, create my 2D technical drawings. I struggled at times when my files got too heavy and suffered a few crashes just before deadlines, but I learned how to model in a more nimble way, and I graduated successfully!

How important is it to ensure a workplace functions as well as it looks?

Balancing function and design is a fundamental requirement of any design task. The current trend of ‘Instagramable’ spaces tilts the focus of many designers of my generation to trends and fashionable design. Time has proven though that the appropriateness, usability, and resilience of a design is what ensures that it stands the test of time.

The appropriateness, usability, and resilience of design are what ensures that it stands the test of time.

 
Comparison of a SketchUp rendering and a post-construction photo of an interior elevation. Designed by 3DEA

How do you communicate the design decisions in your projects?

I’m inspired by Bjark Ingels’ approach to communication. Every project he creates has a clear story and a narrative that can be explained and understood by anyone. To achieve this same sort of clarity, we work to make our proposed solution visible to the client and end-users regardless of the project’s scale. We tend to incorporate a lot of pictures, sketches, real-life models, and 3D drawings, all of which we collate in LayOut. Each project poses different problems so we’ll leverage a different mix of media.

Annotated floor plan of the AECO Space project. Created using a SketchUp model and generated and annotated in LayOut.

You delivered an amazing workplace for AECO Space in Sofia, Bulgaria, tell us about this project?

Our brief for AECO Space was to design and deliver a functional and creative space for their staff and presentation and training areas that could stretch to fit a different number of software trainees. We had an airy space to work with; large windows, tall ceilings and lots of light. These lovely qualities posed a challenge. Whilst great for staff, these features proved problematic for their daily work, particularly training sessions and presentations hosted in-house.

Reflecting the AECO Space brand through color and material specification.

To create a more productive environment, we opted for blinds large enough to cover the expansive windows thereby addressing glare. This meant that we had to figure out how to securely hang the heavy blinds from the ceiling. The only catch was, we had suspended ceilings to counter the large floor-to-ceiling height! Using drawings and 3D models, we tested two visible and two hidden options. After consulting with the customer, we selected a hidden option that was then created and installed by a single contractor, saving us time and making the process much more efficient.

The original space was designed to house a bank so we inherited a formal granite floor that the client didn’t want. Fifteen to twenty percent of the budget had to be set aside to deliver the preferred flooring. Having a clear budget and roadmap for the entire project was essential to bringing in the project on time and within budget.

The as-built space is almost identical to your plans, how do you reach this level of accuracy during the design stage?

Delivering what we promised was easy because we employed a constructible workflow. By modeling the project with buildability in mind, we knew that we could deliver what we proposed, down to the electrical plan and the position of appliances.

 
Sectional elevation across the AECO Space office. Drawn using SketchUp Pro and compiled in LayOut.

It also meant that we could communicate the concept to the client with clarity, and deliver clear technical details to our contractors. Rendered, annotated and dimensioned drawings ensured that our tradesmen were able to install each element of the project easily. We did this with the bespoke floor tiles which had different colors and sizes, meaning that we could deliver clear drawings and ensure a smooth installation. We could also accurately calculate costs using takeoffs from our drawings and provide great guidance to our team.

Plan showing the floor grid, color, and positioning of AECO Space’s colored carpets.

Do you source real-world products to use in your proposals?

Yes, we source and specify real-world and bespoke items from a wide range of suppliers and contractors. On our project with AECO Space, we had about nineteen different contractors and subcontractors supplying fixtures, fittings, and electrics for a not-so-complex project! To get the best quality and price, and still meet deadlines, we’ve found that we need to work with the best.

Thankfully, we have a selection of companies that we work with and trust to deliver good quality work, on time and within budget. We curate and specify products from this pool.

In addition to this, we create bespoke pieces and import unique materials like Scandanavian moss from Finland which we used to create the six-meter-long lamp used in a project with AECO Space.

What is your current workflow in SketchUp?

During site analysis, we hand-draw a plotting survey that captures measurements that may become extremely important later in the design process.

Scaled and annotated 2D drawings created for the AECO Space project using SketchUp Pro & LayOut.

We also take lots of photographs. Back at the studio, we transcribe key details from the hand drawings and photos into 2D drawings in SketchUp. Once all amendments are done in 2D, we create our conceptual 3D models.

We generate images that the client can review, comment on and approve, and then we transition to technical 3D drawings and details, focusing on accuracy to ensure buildability. Our models are data-enriched because that helps us with estimation and specification.

Bespoke furniture details drawn by 3DEA for the AECO Space project.
 

Even without creating photorealistic renderings, SketchUp helps us to get the client excited about the concept. Then we focus on fascinating the client with the finished product.

When the client sets a tight budget, what tools do you use to estimate material and labor costs? 

We pull area and linear measurements from SketchUp’s Entity Info tab into Excel and use formulas to provide quick estimates for projects. Our models are data-enriched so that when the budget, specification or price changes, updated results can be generated very quickly.

What are your most used SketchUp extensions?

Make Faces saves me a lot of time. CleanUp³ helps us remove unnecessary elements and materials to make models lighter and easier to work with. We find Fredo Tools really useful and Round Corners is great for details because it eases the pain of manually rounding corners. I must also mention DropGC, Add Center Point (which is native to SketchUp), Fredo CornerMaterial Tools and Vray for rendering.

Photo of the AECO Space interior. Designed by 3DEA

Can you share the details of some of the projects that you are most proud of?

We designed a 3 x 1.4m all-in-one workstation with a metal structure for a 24/7 maritime surveillance tower which is in the Black Sea off the coast of Bulgaria. All the computers, equipment and wiring needed to be fully integrated within the metal structure. Solving the design problem was only a starting point. We needed to think through the delivery and installation logistics. Starting from a brief and one reference image shared by the client, we had six months to design, develop, and deliver the project.

Working drawings for a bespoke maritime workstation. Designed by 3DEA

SketchUp proved extremely important for figuring out if all the separate parts being made in Sofia would fit into the haulage truck before being assembled and then transported to Varna and Burgas. The desk’s home is similar to the leaning tower of Pisa and some of the pieces didn’t fit the elevator. This meant we had to simulate exactly how the desk would be positioned throughout the stairwell to eventually arrive in its final location at the top of the tower. This project was really tasking but satisfying to deliver and SketchUp was a great help from the beginning to the end of the project.

SketchUp was a great help from the beginning to the end of the project.

Another project highlight for me was designing and delivering our bespoke aluminum and oak veneer lamps across three floors of a new shopping mall in Bulgaria. We collaborated with a lighting manufacturer called Prisma to create three hundred of them with dimensions ranging from 50cm x 50cm, to 6 x 4m.

Photo showing 6m long bespoke lamps designed by 3DEA

Where can we find more examples of your work?

Text published on: August 15, 2019
Author: Sumele Aruofor
Sourcehttps://blog.sketchup.com/article/designing-innovative-workplace-interiors-3dea-bulgaria

Around the World with SketchUp

This month, we’re taking a trip around the world to celebrate all the places your projects are taking shape. From Barcelona to Bangalore (and everywhere in between) SketchUp users create noteworthy designs, often influenced by their unique surroundings. We want you to share how your surroundings inspire your designs using #SketchUp_Global on social media for a chance to be featured. Here’s a round-up of our favourites.   
First up, Diyar Aydoğan imagines a tranquil escape from the bustle of London, UK.
   
Soaking in the southern hospitality. Ten Over Studio creates this 3D animation to capture a unique meaning of “home” in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA.
 
OPM Render Studio shares a glimpse of this snowy scene.
     
Step into this forest house, hidden away in the pristine hillsides of Peru. By Alets Alvarado.
     
Doig Architecture takes us to Melbourne, Australia with this design featuring gorgeous views out to Port Phillip Bay.
     
Onxy Design Collective has us daydreaming with this mountain getaway in Park City, Utah, USA.
   
An oasis in the city. Maria Alarcon designs a rooftop in the heart of Barcelona, Spain where the hardness of stone and wood blend with the freely growing greenery.
   
This southern California, USA home truly has no bad angles. Architect Steve Giannetti combines a worn, antique look with natural materials to create a timeless and fresh space. Animation by Voxl.Vision.
     
Nad Design transports us to this lush getaway on the coast of Indonesia.
   
Now that’s an office! We love this interior by Tacata Arts in Bangalore, India.
       
Up next: we’re highlighting Doddy Setiawan’s tropical home featuring gorgeous green accents, inside and out.
   
We’re wrapping up in Brazil with a bucket list kind of view from Marco Corrêa.
  Thanks for joining our trip around the world! Remember to get involved using #SketchUp_Global.   Stay tuned for our next design theme.

Announcing SketchUp 2019 Feature Updates

We are excited to share some of our favorite features and improvements in the latest product update to SketchUp Pro 2019 and LayOut.

This release has made SketchUp more intuitive and fun to use with a focus on improvements to imagery exports, usability, and a seamless LayOut connection. Get ready — your professional workflow will greatly benefit!

New in SketchUp

Professional output enhancements

Exporting images
Exporting 2D graphics, raster files, and animations just got better. You can now control the overall line thicknesses of exported images with our new line scale multiplier, found in the export options dialogs.

Before this change, line weights stayed the same as the viewport which would make the line weight too small or too large. So, if you are experiencing line weights that are too thick, you can make those line weights thinner. Also, .png images now export with its transparency so you can see what is behind the material while compositing.

 

Customizable unit settings
Have you ever needed to use different unit measurements for a model? Now your model can be customized to show different unit measurements for area and volume. For example, in a model of a room, you can use millimeters for the wall and meters for volume. Available unit types: millimeters, centimeters, meters, inches, and feet.

 

Workflow improvements

Invert Selection
It really is the small things that help your workflow. This new feature will allow you to select anything, then invert the selection of objects. This makes it simple to select items and then perform actions on their inverse. The keyboard shortcut for this will be: CTRL + SHIFT + I (Windows) or CMD + SHIFT + I (Mac).

 

 

Importing files
The days of picking out your import file format from a long list are over. You can now drag and drop ALL supported file types directly into your modeling window. By default, you’ll now see all supported file types available for import. Additionally, the DWG and DXF importers now bring in fewer duplicate and messy edges.

Eraser Tool
Have you ever accidentally erased too much in your model? To make your detailing workflow a little smoother and seamless, we added alt & cmd as modifier keys to remove any unnecessarily highlighted lines that you may have accidentally captured during your modeling efforts.

 

 

Section Planes
Cutting a model along a plane so that you can peer inside the model? We just made this way smoother. Section planes now ask the user to name them before placing them in the model. Simply place, then name.

Send to LayOut
You can now send your models directly to LayOut from the large toolset in the left-hand toolbar. If you haven’t used LayOut for 2D drawings before, start taking advantage of it now!

Large Area Imports for Add Location
You can now easily import large sites at full resolution. How can you take advantage of this new feature? Simply zoom out a bit, then select the level from which you want to import. Note that misusing this feature can adversely affect performance in your SketchUp model. Check out our help center to be sure you’re aware of how to best handle lots of data in your models.

 

New in LayOut

Professional output enhancements

Isometric Dimensioning
It is now possible to make linear dimensions align with an isometric viewpoint. This one is huge! Since an isometric drawing is a primary type of drawing in LayOut, we wanted to make it smoother and more straightforward. You can now control extension lines, gap distance, and align dimensions with isometric angles.

 

Auto-text
Similar to “smart labels”, you can now add text to dimensions without breaking the automatic measurement. For example, let’s say you create a wall dimension. You can dimension a wall, add the word “wall”, and the dimension measurement will still update if the wall’s measurement changes. Pro tip: make sure your string has <> in it. For example, ‘Width <>’ will turn into ‘Wall 1.42m’.

 

Workflow enhancements

Rotating dimensions
Now, when you rotate your object, the bounding box is also rotated with so you can continue to scale in the right orientation.

Quicker editing
Staying consistent with SketchUp usability, in LayOut you can now hit the return key to edit model views, groups, dimensions, or labels! Just select, press return, and start typing!

Ready to try? Contact your local SketchUp reseller to see for yourself how these updates can enhance your professional workflows.

 

A Constructible Model with M Moser Associates

We spoke to Jason Li, Associate and Charles Corley, Director of Organisational Development at M Moser Associates about how virtual design and construction complements an integrated project design and delivery approach.

Over the past fifteen years, M Moser, a global AEC firm with an extensive track record in workplace design and construction, has used SketchUp and LayOut not only for design and conceptualization but as a vital communication tool throughout the project delivery process.

 

 

What does the term “VDC” mean to M Moser?

Charles: It’s Virtual Design and Construction and by that we mean an entirely constructible 3D modeling workflow that empowers any stakeholder to understand and participate in a project. We can create a working virtual environment that makes everything clear to all project participants regardless of training or experience. Rather than relying on a highly coded or flat and disassembled, abstract set of documents, a visual reference is universal. A desk looks like a desk; a wall looks like a wall. You don’t need an expert interpreter of construction documents in order to understand fully and collaborate.

M Moser prefers to own as much of the responsibility on a project as possible. The best case scenario is we’re the designer, engineer, purchaser, and contractor. The deliverable, if you will, is the completed project. Throughout all of our offices worldwide, we use virtual design and construction out of a need to have everybody understand each other. We have an array of cultures, understandings, and backgrounds in construction. We want people to engage meaningfully and get the best out of each other’s contribution and expertise by constructing a project in SketchUp well before reaching the site. VDC is a communication tool that gets everybody on the path to the right result.

 

What types of projects do you focus on as a business?

Charles: We design and build workplaces. Not only corporate offices but corporate campuses, laboratories, private hospitals, private education facilities, and workplaces of all types. You name it, we’ve done it.

Using a nimble tool like SketchUp is also extremely important as these types of projects can be ever-changing. With more traditional building projects you have to nail down things well before construction for many reasons such as permitting, structural calculations, and ordering materials. But workplaces, even extremely large ones, can remain fluid in design. Even the size of the premises could change considerably. Departments can move around. Mergers and acquisitions could change the whole landscape of the office. The flexibility of SketchUp allows the entire team, including clients, specialists, and contractors to keep up.

 

Virtual construction starts to become tangible.

 

Render; not just a pretty facade, the engineering can be equally eye-catching.

 

What is unique about the way you operate?

Charles: In some ways, we’re sort of the enfant terrible. We’re radical about change and are constantly evolving the way we think about construction information. Where many firms are steeped in more traditional documentation, we’re trying to make any record of construction information a by-product of the real collaboration and 3D work.

We don’t want to send out stacks of documents to people who have never seen it before and say, “Go read this and get back to us with a price.” We’d rather have them involved from the very beginning. This means, all the trades, contractors, suppliers, and the client working together in 3D, from concept to completion.

We’re trying to shake the tree where a lot of people don’t want to change. Jason and I have a lot of war stories about how people are incredibly stubborn to change and don’t wish to consider alternatives. We’ve broken down a lot of assumptions like, “You can’t use SketchUp for official documents to send to the government,” or “It’s not accurate enough,” or “We can’t collaborate with consultants using other programs.” These arguments have melted and fallen by the wayside.

Jason: M Moser could be considered quite unique in the industry because our focus is not just on the design. We have to consider the contractors and the build. For many companies, their role ends when they hand over the designs and completed documents, whereas we handover a complete result. And even beyond that, our role sometimes continues into operation and maintenance.

Construction detailing in LayOut can be templated for all projects in a region.

 

Your designers are charged with producing constructible models. Can they do this on the first pass?

Charles: Not every designer has the experience to really understand construction. They tend to draw the design intent, then they have to work with others to discover what’s possible.

As an example, just recently we had a team discussing an intricate reception counter. The contractor in the room pointed out: “If the table were four inches shorter, we could use off-the-shelf components and wouldn’t have to manufacture any custom pieces.” The designer made the change right then, rationalizing that it wouldn’t really impact the overall look but offered a significant reduction in cost and lead-time. Thousands of collaborative discussions like this occur constantly, many of which wouldn’t be possible in 2D. Jason: We collaborate on a daily basis; it’s not really like a factory where I do my job and pass to someone else, or “Here’s a stack of drawings, you go and do it.” Projects are realized through discussion and brainstorming. People have different backgrounds and this way we can truly avoid misinterpretations on what the designer intended.

 

Virtual construction sequencing can save months onsite.

 

People will always have differing opinions, so does it always go as planned?

Charles: What you would see in our meetings would be a group of people from very different professions, looking at a model being rotated on a large screen. The person leading the meeting is not coming up with all the answers, they’re the “chief question-asker.” The team answers the issues together, marking the live model and taking screen captures. They talk about what needs to change and sometimes even make these changes on-the-fly. It’s very much a team activity.

The notion of success mostly comes from the client but often there are multiple opinions. One might say, “I want to make sure I have the correct amount of meeting rooms;” another person says, “I want to make sure we finish on time;” another, “I want to make sure my boss coming from overseas is happy,” and so on. Those objectives blend together and form the definition of a successful project. Jason: We’re using VDC as a methodology to ensure designers, engineers, professionals, specialists, and the client can communicate on an equal platform. Our goal is that everybody understands the project objectives to achieve results.

 

Collaboration throughout a project makes for a smooth delivery.

 

A slick reception area before, during, and after the build.

 

Building constructible 3D models looks to be a time-consuming exercise. Is it more efficient than it seems?

Charles: Many would say that you can do something in AutoCAD faster or easier than you can in SketchUp. We have found that is not the case if you use it intelligently. There is often a false understanding of time efficiency. Hand a project to a couple or draftsmen and they may spend hundreds of hours doing the drawings, not taking the time to understand construction. A senior stakeholder would then have to go through each page of the drawings to check them, applying the required 20 years of experience to effectively decipher it. Then there are the perspectives. Visualizers can spend an inordinate amount of time setting up beautiful—but only a limited number of—renders. All those hours really add up.

Jason: VDC forces the people who are doing the drawings to think about what they’re building, they can’t just draw lines. With our methodology, the modeler creates everything in SketchUp.

Then they split the model into different viewports in LayOut to see right away if something’s not working. The key difference is, any changes are immediately echoed through the entire set. Everybody’s job is faster and easier. The whole workflow is compressed and more evident to everybody at a glance. Errors are glaring, “Oh, look, this wall is not meeting the mullion correctly.” We can see where buildability is correct and where it is failing, and we can catch it early. There’s also less time spent on visualizations. We can use an extension to quickly do perspectives from any position in minutes instead of hours.

 

 

Finding a clash here, is one step closer to eliminating onsite issues.

 

Get everyone on the same page with exploded 3D fly-through animations.

 

What perspectives can your clients expect to see in the early design stages?

Jason: We do aim to deliver spectacular visuals to help convey our idea. At one time, we had a team of visualization specialists dedicated to rendering, but it became a bottleneck because time had to be booked with the few 3D visualizers trained in that software.

We now have established ways to do as much as we can in SketchUp, which is the fastest way. There isn’t a steep learning curve. Everybody can have it and everybody can use it to develop gorgeous renderings with extensions. We don’t need so many specialists. In Shanghai and Singapore, we use renderers such as Enscape. In India, we lean more toward CPU-based renderers, including SU Podium.

Charles: We also had a problem with third-party drawn perspectives. A designer would freestyle to make something look better. In this process, they might have a detailed understanding of what the interior would look like, but would often leave out the air vents, access panels, joint lines, and sprinklers because they thought they were ugly. Even worse, they would enlarge or shrink objects to give a false impression of what one would experience.

By transitioning to the VDC methodology, we ensure that perspectives remain true to life. We can also deliver beautiful renders instantly, so you can quickly look at things from a different point of view. There’s a nimbleness that is lost when creating perspectives with other workflows where the same limited views are updated over and over again.

 

 

Render; a visually stunning workplace is a productive workplace.

 

Does your methodology transverse regions?

Charles: We developed our approach because we work with contractors trained in very different ways and to some extent that continues today. However, we think that the constructability aspect of VDC is applicable anywhere. There’s a great deal of value in being able to do virtual mock-ups and say, “Are you sure this is what you want? Because look here, this could be improved.”

Constructible models eliminate wasted resources and materials and allow for an unprecedented attention to detail before reaching the site. If you think of everything in a project as separate systems that must come together, there’s a huge amount of coordination required in what was traditionally called the design development stage. We now choose to call this integrated development because we are essentially combining the power, lighting, partition, and furniture systems. The integrated development stage is where much of the change occurs and decisions are made. Documentation for the record is memorializing what we had agreed during all this collaborative effort. Documents may be still necessary for now but they record what was already worked out and understood by all and don’t serve to gain that agreement. That was done through a highly constructible model—a virtual construction.

 

Photograph; the finished product, a clean and crisp space featuring natural materials.

 

About M Moser Associates

M Moser Associates has specialized in the design and delivery of workplace environments since 1981, with clients from the corporate, private healthcare, and education sectors. With over 900 staff in 16 offices on three continents, the company provides a holistic approach to physical and digital workplace environments of all scales.

 

Making a door and window schedule in SketchUp

Let’s take a look at how you can combine Advanced Attributes and ‘Group By” aggregation in Generate Report to create door and window schedules.

To generate a schedule, we’ll start by adding a few attributes to the door and window components in my model. Specifically, we’ll add a Size using the new Advanced Attributes (access these through the “More” button in the Entity Info window). In addition to Size, there is a new attribute for Price, URL, Owner, and Status. These fields allow you to add information to any component, and they can also be called upon by LayOut labels (we’ll look at those a few paragraphs on)!

 

These attributes can be used to add data to components without creating Dynamic Components.

 

In addition to defining a Size for all components, we also want to make sure all components have an instance name. Instance Names are also defined in the Entity Info window, and are the data object we’ll use to create an aggregated schedule for our doors and windows.

In most cases, all instances of a door or window will have the same Instance Name, but in some cases (such as a door which can swing either left or right) a single component may end up having more than one Instance Name. In this example, we had one door component. Two of these doors swung left and were labeled D1. The third, a right swing, was labeled D2. Same component, but different real world thing: each real world thing should have a unique Instance Name!

 

The Instance Names will populate the labels once the model is in LayOut

 

Once the data is all set in the model, it’s time to run a report! In Generate Report, we’ll create a brand new template. Make sure to give your new template a name and save it (The guy who made the video below forgot this important step!).

The first step in creating the new report is to choose where the information will come from. In this example, we want to report upon the entire model and choose to report upon a specific nesting level. In this case, Level 3.

“What the heck is a nesting level?” you ask? Level 1 is the model, Level 2 is the buildings and loose components. Level 3 is the door and window components inside the buildings.

 

 

Now, we’ll set the Group By value. This is the attribute by which Generate Report will aggregate components. In this case, we want all components with the same name to get consolidated together, so we will drag Instance Name into the Group By field. Finally, we can add any additional attributes that we would want on the schedule. In this example, we’ll add Quantity and Size to the Report Attributes list.

 

Saving a template allows you to run the same report on other jobs in the future.

 

Now we’ll Save and run the report. Once I run the report, it looks like a door and window schedule. Success! The final step in SketchUp is to export the report, so that we can load a .CSV into LayOut as a Table.

 

All the data you want, and nothing you don’t need!

 

Over in LayOut, the report comes in as a Table, which means it can be edited and styled (so we can change the column heading from Instance Name to Label). Even better, we can use the Label tool to add call-outs to the Model Window for the Instance Name of each door and window. Since the Instance Name was a standard attribute from SketchUp, we’ll simply choose it as an automatic label from the label dropdown (we could also use the Size or Component Name, if we wanted).

 

It’s just that simple!

 

There you have it: A little bit of pre-work in naming and organizing components while modeling, and then you’re off to the races when it’s time to turn your model into a project. Happy sketching!

 

 

 

From concept design to construction with SketchUp

Northpower Stålhallar is a construction company based in Stockholm, Sweden that specializes in warehouse construction. They build industrial warehouses using SketchUp from concept design all the way to the construction phase, including LayOut for construction documentation.

 

Tell us about  Northpower Stålhallar. What do you do?

Northpower Stålhallar was started in 2006 by two brothers from the northern part of Sweden. We were something completely different from the company you see today. Our founders were sitting in a small office by themselves. Since then, the company has grown to almost fifty employees. Fifteen people work in the office, five people weld in our manufacturing department, and the rest are on our work sites building the projects.

Northpower Stålhallar’s office building. This includes a manufacturing unit, where many SketchUp designs come to life.

 

What was the company’s first experience with SketchUp? When did you first use it and why?

In the beginning, the two brothers were looking at other construction companies working in 2D and thought, “We don’t want to use 2D, we want to use 3D because you can visualize designs so much better”. They started to look around to understand what types of tools were on the market.

A company delivered a staircase to them for a project and one of the founders noticed it was drawn in SketchUp. He thought, “If they can do it, I can do it.” So he downloaded SketchUp and tried it. He found it to be fantastic. The cost is much lower than some of the other programs, so that was great too!

 

Can you talk about the space you are sitting in and its design in SketchUp? We’d love to take a virtual tour.

When you walk through the entrance, you have a view of our manufacturing unit. Everything made there is designed in SketchUp. You can see the steel being welded together. Northpower Stålhallar builds steels halls so our building is, of course, built with a steel frame.

Steel hall designs are a signature from Northpower Stålhallar

 

From the lobby, you can access the saunas (it’s a must in Sweden). There’s also a lunchroom, where we all sit and have lunch together. You can take the elevator up and that’s where we have our offices. When you come up, you’ll see a big open lounge area with sofas and TVs where you can sit and relax while waiting for a meeting. We also have table tennis, billiards, and an exercise room.

We modelled the whole thing in SketchUp. The painters were painting the designs exactly from the model. All of the furniture is inside the model too. This office is exact to the millimetre of its SketchUp model.

 

A lunchroom scene from the model of Northpower Stålhallar’s office

 

Walk us through a project lifecycle. How does SketchUp impact this?

In a typical project, our customer will have some idea of what they want to build. We sit with customers and discuss their needs. Our team will draw an initial idea live in SketchUp. We get a sense of the size of the space and we say, “Do you want a wall here or here? Do you need a window here or here?” That’s the best thing you can do with SketchUp—we decide everything directly and very quickly. If the client has a good sense of what they want, you can draw and deliver this initial idea in a couple of hours. It’s super.

 

A 3D SketchUp model allows the Northpower Stålhallar team to visualize what they want to build

 

It’s always interesting when you start working with a customer and they see the 3D models. In the beginning, they see how much you can model and how quickly. They are accustomed to doing sketches on paper and they have to erase, draw it again, and do it that way. And when they see how much we do in SketchUp they say, “Ah! I have to learn this too”.

Once we finish the initial design, we have to do the drawings. We use LayOut to present drawings to our customers. It’s easy to update our documentation with LayOut as we make adjustments to the model.

Our clients normally need to submit architectural drawings to the government for planning approval. These help the government understand our design. From these, we get permission to build. When a client gets that permission, we begin the construction drawings. Our engineers take another week or so to work on the construction documents. In the meantime, we order and begin sourcing materials from our suppliers.

A construction drawing created in LayOut

 

Can you talk about how you collaborate with your suppliers using SketchUp?

We always push our manufacturers to deliver everything to us in 3D. If you can’t draw it in 3D, we won’t buy from you. We’ve done this for a couple of years and almost everyone has followed. So today, when we order something, we send them our model and show them what we need. They look at it and can say, “We can deliver these parts for this price”.

 

For Northpower Stålhallar, everything is designed in 3D, including the screws and bolts

 

Once we agree, they send us the 3D model for specific parts, normally as IFC files. Then we’ll import the IFC file into our SketchUp model to see if there are any clashes. It’s much easier to look around a 3D model than 2D drawings with measurements, for example. All of this is checked in SketchUp directly.  

 

When you start a new project in SketchUp, do you start from scratch? Do you have any workflows that save time when working on a new project?

We implemented standard measurements that we apply to models as much as we can. It’s much easier for us to use SketchUp this way, like a grid system. We push customers to use these standards so that we can design it and build it more easily.

 

Northpower Stålhallar takes this design all the way to finished project using SketchUp

 

We also start most projects from a standard model. From there, we like to take solutions from previous 3D models. We copy solutions from project to project. When you’re designing in 3D, it’s so easy to pull these things in. We started a library in SketchUp to help with this where we collect the solutions that we’ve come up with before. Now, you can just drag it directly from the library to the model.

 

Copying solutions from project to project allows Northpower Stålhallar to save time when iterating through designs

 

As a company that uses SketchUp from concept design all the way to construction phase, can you share your take on using SketchUp to build a constructible model?

Before I started at Northpower Stålhallar, all I heard was people using SketchUp to design an idea of what something would look like; the outer shell let’s say. However, I learned that you can use it to design exactly what and how you will build. As engineers, if something is 3 millimetres wrong, it won’t fit. So for us, we draw everything down to the millimetre precision. We order components from our suppliers to the millimetre. For us, SketchUp does this perfectly.

 

This scene focuses on a warehouse’s steel frame; finding a clash here eliminates issues on-site

 

How do you use SketchUp models to work with your construction staff on site?

We share models with our construction workers. This way, they can look at them on-site using their laptops or phones. Every time we update something important, they see those updates to the model. We know they’ll look at the model, so it’s important for it to be up-to-date and accurate. We’ve noticed that the more our construction staff use the product, the fewer questions we get.

 

A construction team member navigates through a SketchUp model

 

Before, they would have questions about the measurement on a beam for example. Now, they’ll look at the model themselves and answer their own questions. For them, it’s easier to be able to access the information directly from the design.

Some of our construction teams have no prior experience with SketchUp. One advantage of SketchUp is how easy it is to learn compared to other programs. We sit with our staff, even just two hours, and they understand how to look around a model and access the important information.

 

Get everyone on the same page; collaboration makes for a smooth project delivery

 

What’s next for how your team uses SketchUp?

We’re trying to expand our use of ‘generate report’ to get more information from our models. We’re also trying to get more information into the models. What we want is as much information as we can get into our 3D models so that the model is the only thing we have to work from.

 

Extensions you can’t live without?

IRender, CleanUp, Cutlist, Auto-Invisible Layer

 

The Northpower Stålhallar team in SketchUp